McConnell has been chief of the department serving southern York County since 2008 and friends say he was recently diagnosed with cancer.
Deputy Chief Tommy White, who will succeed McConnell as interim chief, said he was loyal to the end.
“We had a call Monday at the old H&B Hotel. He was coming back from his treatment and made Sandy [his wife] stop by and check on us,” White said.
Some department members who’ve known McConnell the longest are taking his death hard, White said. This is the first death of an active member in department history.
“We’ve got a couple of the guys who were pretty close to him. We’ll get through it,” White said.
Upon learning of McConnell’s death, White contacted the S.C. Fireman’s Association in Columbia. The agency provides both moral and manpower support following department tragedies. Its importance was realized following the death of nine Charleston firefighters following a furniture store blaze in 2007.
McConnell’s day to day job was working for York County Emergency Management office in the department’s calibration and maintenance division.
The family will hold a visitation from 1:30-3 p.m. Saturday at Catwba Baptist Church. The funeral service for McConnell will be at 3 p.m. Burial will be private.